Friday, August 20, 2010

A Baby Story

I've had so many people as me about my labor and delivery that I feel I can tell the story in my sleep. I never realized when I declared my desire to have a natural birth that so many people would take an interest in whether or not my birth plan became a reality. To be honest, there's parts of the day that are a bit fuzzy, but here's what I remember, starting on Monday, August 2nd. It's going to be long because I'm doing this for myself, too, as a way to document Amelia's arrival for myself. Some of this may also be a little more information than some of you want to read, so be warned.

I had been sick most of the weekend with some sort of bug that turned my stomach into a nuclear reactor. About 4:30 that morning, I got up and soaked in the tub. Once I got out, I threw up (again) and then crawled into the recliner to eat some crackers and watch CNN. Around 5:30 or so, I heard John in the bathroom throwing up. Just great, I thought. Now we're both sick. I went to tend to him and we both eventually crawled back into bed.

Around 6:30, I felt this weird sensation. It only happened once and was like electricity running in a line down my belly. Then I had a contraction. I got up and went to the bathroom where I noticed my pants were a little wet. Dang, I thought. Must have wet my pants. (This, by the way, is not entirely uncommon during pregnancy). When I stood up to go to the closet and get another pair of pajamas, I suddenly found my feet getting an impromptu baptism. Let me pause here to tell you something: I've always been told that when your water breaks, it's not like in the movies. Well, folks, mine was. And it didn't stop after the initial "gush"... but more on that in a moment. I stood there for a minute registering what was happening. I had made the decision during my pregnancy that when my labor started, I'd labor at home until either my contractions got close enough to warrant going to the hospital or until my water broke. I never imagined my water would break FIRST, forcing me to head to Labor and Delivery before my contractions even started. So there I stood in a puddle, mentally modifying my birth plan.

I calmly walked to the bedroom (leaving a "trail" all the way) and woke up John.

"Honey, I think my water broke."


"I think my water broke."

At this point, he said something that I wish to God I could remember. I was in too much shock at the time to register exactly what it was, but I know it was COMPLETELY unrelated to what I was telling him and at the time I thought, I'll laugh about this later.

"John, listen to me, my water broke. I think I'm going into labor."

His eyes opened wider as he took in what I was saying.

"Are you sure?"

"Well, either my water broke or I've lost all control of my urinary system and need to go to the hospital anyway."

He got out of bed and we both headed to the bathroom to get ready and pack. We were surprisingly both very calm and relaxed. I knew I wouldn't be taking a real shower for a few days, so I climbed in to get clean and wash my hair. When I got out, I discovered a new problem. My water didn't "break and stop." Nope, it continued. This presented a problem: any clothes I put on would get soaked but I couldn't very well walk around nude and "christen" the bathroom floor. John suggested a towel. So for the next 45 minutes or so, I got ready with a navy terry cloth tail following me everywhere.

We loaded up the car and headed to the hospital (with me sitting on a garbage bag). I told John to take me to McDonalds so that I could get a biscuit. I was starving from being sick over the weekend and knew that once I got to the hospital, I wouldn't get to eat. (I wish now I'd ordered three sausage biscuits because that little biscuit didn't get me far over the next 24 hours).

Once we arrived at the hospital around 7:45, I text my nurse midwife to let her know we'd arrived. We headed to the check in desk. Luckily, I'd been "storked" several weeks earlier, so they had all of my information. They asked me have a seat for a minute while they got my file and printed my bracelet. Before I could even get fully seated, though, I felt everything get warm. John looked down as water seeped through my Adidas pants. Up until that moment, I'm not sure he entirely believed my water had broken. You know how those science people like their proof-- ha ha. His whole demeanor changed, though. We told the lady at the counter that I needed a towel because my water was breaking (again? Isn't it broke by now?). This prompted her to find me a NEW chair... a WHEELchair. Within 3 or 4 minutes, I was being wheeled into L & D.

I got undressed, put on the super-stylish hospital gown, and settled in to wait on Holly, the nurse midwife (who is also an absolute ROCK STAR and MIRACLE WORKER--more on that later). She came in and checked me to verify my water had indeed broken and to check my progress. I was 80% effaced and NO centimeters dilated. We discussed the plan for the day. Since I wanted to do it natural if possible, Holly told me she'd let me chill and come back to check my progress at lunch.

So I chilled for the next four hours or so with the monitors on my belly. Every once in awhile, I'd have a very minor contraction but nothing else. Mainly I just complained (constantly) about being hungry.

Around lunch time, Holly returned. I was now 90% effaced but still not dilated. I asked if we could wait it out a little while longer. Holly was all for it but told me that since my water had broken so early, I would need to start antibiotics when she returned after she got off work. I told her how hungry I was and she left for a minute and returned with banana popsicles. They might as well have been a steak dinner at that point.

Holly left to return to the clinic and I chilled some more, having a random contraction here and there. Around 5:00 or so she returned to check me again. I had actually dilated to 1 centimeter which, yes, was slight progress, but not anything close to being enough. In addition to the antibiotics, we decided it was time to start me on Pitocin. Though I'd wanted to avoid it, everything was just moving way too slowly and at this point it had been 10+ hours since my water had broken. Holly had a dinner to attend, so she told the nurses to start the Pit around 7:00.

The nurses started the antibiotics and fluids and I spent some time up walking around and visiting with family over the next hour or so. Around 7:00, the nurse came to start the Pitocin. It didn't take too terribly long for it to kick in and pretty soon my contractions were coming more regularly and with more intensity. Unfortunately, most of them were in my back. Women had told me about back labor when I was pregnant, but it is so much more painful than I anticipated. I won't lie--it was bad, bad pain. The abdominal pain was no worse than cramps I'd had during my period, but the back pain was pretty hellacious. I handled it pretty well, though, with the help of John and my mom. I spent the next few hours using my breathing exercises and alternating positions. I found the rocking chair to be good for handling pain, as well as leaning over the bed (which was raised up above my waist) and having John and mom rub my lower back.

After about four hours or so on the Pit, I told John I wouldn't be opposed to some Stadol. I was managing the pain but it was wearing me out. What I didn't realize, however, was that once they gave me the Stadol, I wouldn't be allowed out of bed. And that was NOT a good thing. Though the Stadol took the edge off a little bit, I couldn't handle the pain so well while lying on my back. Fortunately, Holly came in to check me again. After all the contractions, I was just SURE that she'd tell me I'd dilated to 8 or 9. No such luck. Though I was completely effaced, I had dilated from 1 cm. to a WHOPPING 2.5 cm.

I knew at that moment what was coming next, but I didn't want to accept it. My water had broken over 12 hours earlier and the four hours on Pitocin had been exhausting after all day in the hospital. There was no way I would be able to continue at the rate I was going without risking Amelia's safety (and the necessity of a c-section). It was time for an epidural to help me relax and to help the labor progress. I had been against an epidural since day one, not only because I wanted to experience labor but also because the thought of an epidural terrified me--not so much the needle going in my back (though I do HATE needles), but being basically paralyzed from the waist down. I started crying. Holly, John and momma tried to keep me calm and keep me rational. They all told me this was what had to be done and that I shouldn't feel like I'd failed in any way. I finally agreed to the epidural and signed the paper.

This is the ugly part that I'm not so proud of. For about the next half hour or so (I hope to God for the sake of my family and everyone in the L & D wing it wasn't any more than that), I gave up on my breathing exercises and trying to deal with the pain. To be honest, I think I just totally gave up in general. I was exhausted and angry and depressed and scared to death. And my anxiety was amped up even more because I knew that John and mom would have to leave the room during my epidural. So instead of "hoo-hoo-heeing" through the contractions, I... well, I screamed. I screamed as loudly as I possibly could. I screamed so loud that I literally couldn't feel the pain at times. For those of you who know me, it's no secret that I'm a fairly loud person anyway, so you can imagine how loud I got. No one could console me. And while I'm not sure I could have controlled it, I wish I had. I think I may have traumatized my mom. She told me later how hard it was to see and hear me in that much pain and misery. It wasn't my finest moment, but there's not much I can do now but try to laugh about it.

The anesthesiologist arrived. The first (rather curt) words out of his mouth were "What's with all this screaming?" He told me he wouldn't do my epidural if I was going to scream. It kind of pissed me off at first. I mean, I'm in pain. Would it kill him to be a little kinder? I realize now, though, he didn't have time to be warm and fuzzy and indulgent. He was needed all over the hospital and he didn't have time to wait for me to get my wits about me. And he wasn't about to risk my well-being and his career on a screaming crazy woman. And in the end, I'd rather get my epidural from someone who is serious about his job than someone who wants me to feel all warm and fuzzy.

While the anesthesiologist got everything prepared, I proved that I could be quiet and still during my contractions. I didn't do it on my own, though. Holly was there with me the whole time, keeping me focused and calm. It was soon time for the procedure. I sat on the edge of the bed, holding Holly's hands. She pointed to her forehead and said, "Put your forehead to mine." And eye to eye with Holly, I breathed my way through three contractions without moving (or screaming). The anesthesiologist started talking to me and even complimented me on my breathing. He told me I was surprising happy when I wasn't screaming. ha ha

I'm not going to lie: though the epidural didn't really hurt that much, the sensation I felt was worse in my opinion. I absolutely hated the feeling when the numbing agent was injected. I could feel my body going numb, slowly becoming paralyzed. It was just like in my nightmares.

They finished my epidural, got me into bed and put in a catheter. At this point, things get a little blurry because a lot of stuff started happening. Plus, I was an emotional wreck and had basically started shutting down. I can remember telling mom several times, "I'm trapped." I don't remember the order in which everything happened, but basically the baby's heart rate started dropping after every contraction and my blood pressure started dropping pretty drastically (around 90/40). I remember people looking kind of alarmed but I was too out of it to ask many questions. The result of all this was me being hooked up to a lot of tubes and monitors and stuff. They took me off of the regular monitors and inserted a fetal monitor that attached to the baby's scalp and an internal contraction monitor. In addition to the four or five bags of fluids I got over the course of my labor, they also pumped fluids into me to "bathe" Amelia since my water had broken so early in the day. I remember looking at one of the nurses and saying, "Are y'all going to stick a cord up in there and charge your cell phones, too?" I also got epinephrine twice for my blood pressure and they put me on oxygen, too. All this in addition to the blood pressure cup squeezing the crap out of me every ten minutes (in case I haven't mentioned it before, I HATE getting my blood pressure taken).

I'm not sure exactly how touch and go it was to be honest, but John told me the next day that he was really afraid they were about to wheel me back to the OR for a c-section. The good news is that I didn't have to have a c-section. The bad news is that I still had 8 more hours to go!

Once they got the baby and me stable, Holly left to get some sleep. John and mom stayed with me for awhile. My body was completely dead from the waist down and I had to depend on them and the nurses to move me. Periodically, I'd ask them to squeeze my feet, hoping I'd feel something. I was totally miserable. Plus, the hunger I'd had earlier in the day was replaced by an agonizing thirst that no amount of ice chips could satisfy. I started craving orange Gatorade for some reason.

As we marched on toward morning (and the 24-hour mark), the nurses came in periodically to check my progress. By around 6:30, I was fully dilated but they wanted to let me "slide" for a little while and let the baby move farther down into the birth canal. I was honestly too tired to be excited at this point.

About an hour later, Holly came in and told me it was time. I felt a rush of adrenaline as they sat me up and and repositioned the bed. Soon my legs were in these big furry stirrups, with John on one side and momma on the other. Holly told me I was going to grab my legs and push hard like I would if I were trying to poop and that I would keep pushing for ten seconds. At 7:50, I started pushing with my contraction. Well, I tried to push. Being completely numb makes it difficult to know if you're even pushing at all. It took me awhile to figure out exactly how to push, but once I did things went very quickly. It was actually really exciting. Holly was cheering me on the whole time. John was grinning from ear to ear and the look on his face was making me more and more excited. My mom, bless her, kept pushing with me. We laughed and told her not to pass out (or poop! ha ha) Soon they told me the baby's head was starting to crown and asked if I wanted a mirror. I said no because I was already having trouble staying focused on even counting (they actually had to count out loud for me!) I kept pushing like crazy and at 8:12 AM on August 3rd, Amelia made her exit from me and her entrance into the world!

When she came out, she was the most beautiful shade of lavender. In fact, my first words were, "She's so purple!" They put her on my chest and I was absolutely in love at first sight.

So as far as my birth plan goes, I didn't get to labor at home like I wanted, I had to have pitocin and an epidural, and I delivered her on lying on my back. At first I was really disappointed, but the more I've thought about it, the more "okay" with it I've become. I'm thankful that I didn't have to have a c-section. And (okay this may be a total overshare) I'm thankful that my vajayjay came out relatively unscathed (THANK YOU, HOLLY, FOR SAVING MY SPECIAL PLACES!!!!!). But mostly, I'm thankful for my beautiful baby girl who has filled a hole in my life I didn't even know I had. I could look at it as things "not going my way," but wasn't my ultimate goal to have a healthy baby? There are a million things that can happen during labor or delivery and those things didn't happen. Amelia and I are happy and healthy and that's all that matters.

So here's what I have to say to any of you ladies who are putting together your birth plan: there's nothing wrong with doing it as long as you understand that it's a plan. "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" as do the best laid plans of expectant mothers. Have your plan but know that at any moment it may change and you just have to roll with it. Don't be stubborn and put yourself or your baby in danger. Luckily, I wasn't stubborn enough to refuse to do what was best, but I feel I was a little too set in what I wanted so that when it did change, I didn't deal with it as well as I could have (hence the screaming).

So that's my baby story, but it's only the beginning. Every day I'm writing a new chapter. I love being a mommy and I'm so thankful that I've been blessed with this gorgeous little girl.